Throughout history, there are events that transcend personal experience as they impact almost everyone. By this, I mean that these events are large enough that we almost all have collective story about them.
For my grandmother’s generation, that event was likely the attacks on Pearl Harbor. For my generation, I can safely say it was the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. In all of my years of talking with and interviewing people, I have yet to run into someone who did not know exactly where they were and what they were doing on that fateful morning.
Everyone has a story about it, and each is individual. While we all experienced the same moment, we all absorbed it in different ways.
To this day I still vividly remember finding out about the attacks in New York, the Pentagon and a failed attack that landed in Pennsylvania. I was a Junior in high school in the first period of the day. I remember walking down the hall on my way to the restroom when I heard someone cry out from one of the classrooms. I could hear the television, along with hushed voices but couldn’t make out what was being said.
After I returned to class, my teacher got a message from the main office and was told to turn on the television. We had no context of what was going on until we saw the images of the towers following the attack. Several minutes later, the two towers collapsed taking thousands of lives with them.
For the rest of the day, we all reported to our classes, but we did nothing but watch the news reports and updates as they came.
The main emotion that I can remember feeling at the time was a numb sense of uncertainty. While I was almost an adult at that in my life, my sense of security was tested for the first time to my memory.